Karl Lagerfeld Was the Multi-Tasking Disruptor We All Needed
He had a gold Apple Watch and a Insta-famous cat—not to mention big-deal jobs at three different companies. By Bay Area standards, Karl Lagerfeld’s life was #goals. And today we take a moment to remember the man who proclaimed, “sweatpants are a sign of defeat.” (So harsh, yet still so true.)
Lagerfeld passed Tuesday in Paris at 85-ish—his date of birth is unclear, but records suggest he was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1935—while helming Chanel, Fendi, and his eponymous Karl Lagerfeld lines. Although he never attended design school, he kickstarted his career by entering the International Wool Secretariat contest, now known as the International Woolmark Prize, as a teenager in 1954. (Long before Peter Thiel was encouraging kids to stop out of school and chase their dreams, Lagerfeld was leading the way by doin’ the damn thing.) He won the coat competition that year, and went on to work in couture at both Balmain and Jean Patou before transitioning to ready-to-wear.
Lagerfeld took the reins at Fendi in the mid-60s and Chanel in 1982. Along the way, he also enjoyed freelance stints at Krizia, Ballantyne, Charles Jourdan and Chloé. More than anything, he was known as a disruptor; a rule-breaker. He resurrected stuffy brands from the brink of death by twisting uptight textiles into something hip and cool. If you’ve ever donned a tweed moto jacket or a brightly-dyed fur (real or fake), you can thank Lagerfeld for inspiring the trend.
Like so many of the titans of Silicon Valley, he was hard-working, talented, innovative, and relentless. In addition to designing 14 collections annually across all of his fashion gigs, he was also a photographer, a sculptor, and an occasional author. He may have been the busiest octogenarian on the planet—something most of us can respect.
But he certainly wasn’t perfect. Lagerfeld was known for making sizist comments and casting choices, as Vox notes. While the fashion industry has made considerable progress in promoting body positivity, Lagerfeld was never one to lead the way. He was actually one of the loudest voices holding it back.
Fashion won’t save the world, but it can inspire us and bring us joy. Over the years, Lagerfeld’s work has done both for millions of people. Whether you own a piece of Chanel or Fendi, or you avoid luxury shopping, Karl Lagerfeld likely had an impact on the way you shop and dress. He will be missed.
Lagerfeld’s final collections are available at Chanel (156 Geary Street) and Fendi (195 Grant Avenue) in Union Square. His eponymous line doesn’t have a boutique in the Bay Area, but there is a Karl Lagerfeld outlet at the San Francisco Premium Outlets in Livermore.